Two students suffered rubber bullets injuries and 18 others were arrested during protests yesterday over lack of accommodation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The two students were rushed to hospital for treatment for the rubber-bullet wounds. A third sustained a minor injury.
About 600 students took part in the protest at the university's Pietermaritzburg campus.
Students representative council president Mabandla Ndlangamandla said students had gathered for a peaceful protest because their grievances were not resolved on Monday.
Police were escorting them during the protest when suddenly another police vehicle appeared.
"Police jumped out of the vehicle and sprayed students with teargas before firing a hail of rubber bullets. Students ran for their lives and three were shot in the process," Ndlangamandla said.
He said police were ordered by the university management to disperse the students by firing at them.
"Students are angry and will continue with the action until our demands are met," he said.
The SRC and the Progressive Youth Alliance are demanding that students housing director Vasanthie Naidoo and the campus deputy dean Reverend James Ngomane resign.
"The campus enrols about 8000 students every year, but only 1600 students are housed," Ndlangamandla said.
He said there were currently about 500 students on the waiting list.
The students first embarked on a protest in February to highlight the problem of accommodation.
At the time, the SRC and management agreed that 400 students would be accommodated.
Police spokesman Joey Jeevan confirmed that 18 students were arrested.
It was not clear whether the students would be held in prison overnight before they appear in court today.
"The students have been charged with unlawful gathering and causing hindrance on a public road," Jeevan said.
University vice-chancellor Dasrath Chetty said yesterday discussions between the students' dean executive committee and the students were underway.
Chetty said that while the university recognised the need for accommodation in all campuses, the strategy was to build residences at campuses where the need was the greatest, such as the Westville campus.
"The order to arrest protesting students did not come from management, but police arrested people who were demonstrating without permission on a public road.
"The students only had permission to demonstrate on Monday," said Chetty.